Growing up in the area, as a kid, Alexandria was always my stomping ground. My friends and I would aimlessly roam the streets and hang out on the boardwalk overlooking the Potomac River, because we thought that was cooler than loitering at the mall. Back then, Old Town was nowhere near the food scene it is today. To put things in perspective, Ben & Jerry’s was probably the most sought out “restaurant” in the place…
Today, Old Town is becoming a culinary epicenter among the suburbs of Washington, D.C. and Bastille, a traditional French brasserie with a modern twist, has definitely contributed to this trend. The restaurant provides a breath of fresh air into a town that can be somewhat as the name suggests: old.
I went to Bastille on a particularly dreary day, but by the time our cocktails arrived, the sun had just started peeking out from under the clouds. It was like a sign that this was going to be a fantastic meal.
The cocktails themselves were very interesting. Both were made with rum – one with light rum and the other with dark – but the two had nice, contrasting flavor profiles. The drink made with dark rum was more substantial in flavor, and the light rum served as a nice, light accompaniment to the remainder of the meal.
For an appetizer, I ordered the Spring Vegetable Salad, or Salade Printanière, whose taste matched if not surpassed its aesthetic beauty. This dish was primarily composed of red beets, golden beets, the most beautiful watermelon radishes you’ve ever seen, and almonds atop a goat cheese mousse drizzled with aged balsamic. Never before in my life have I enjoyed beets as much as I did with this dish. I was blown away by the incredible flavors of this salad, despite it being conceptually very simple.
The next course consisted of the Yellowfin Tuna Steak, or Le Thon Aux Épices and Hanger Steak, also known as Onglet A L’Echalotte. The tuna steak was served atop a nutty red quinoa with fennel, confit tomato, and a piquillo pepper coulis. The tuna was seared, allowing the flavor of the premium quality Yellowfin to shine through. The Hanger Steak was cooked beautifully, and topped with a delectable red wine shallot sauce. This dish was served with French fries, which were crispy and seasoned perfectly. I’m not sure about you, but that’s everything I hope for in a good fry.
The dessert round was extremely exciting, as Bastille has a good amount of gluten-free options. The star of the show was the Valrhona Chocolate S’more, which could be modified from its original preparation to be gluten-free. This sinful concoction was composed of a chocolate cheesecake, toasted marshmallow cream, vanilla ice cream, and chocolate shavings. I usually have a low tolerance when it comes to extremely rich desserts like this, but I would have gladly consumed it in its entirety. I also ordered a strawberry sorbet, which was very fresh and delicious. I also appreciated that this was served with fresh strawberries and a few gluten-free meringues rather than just two scoops of sorbet in a bowl. This is one example of how Bastille pays very close attention to detail in their food, and will always value the presentation, even if the dish is modified.
Overall, my meal at Bastille was one I will definitely treasure. The traditional yet approachable menu, and the extreme willingness of the staff to allow modifications to nearly every dish, makes the place perfect for those with any type of dietary restriction.